Today’s Edition: A bias toward action, continued.

October 15, 2021

          A reader sent a note with a suggestion that could have an immediate and significant impact on the upcoming Virginia elections. She forwarded an email about the urgent need for volunteers to help “cure” otherwise valid ballots in Virginia that are missing the signature of a witness. Here is the email from VA Dems:

          A problem has materialized with the mail-in ballots.  Because they were used so infrequently pre-Covid, and because last year the requirement to obtain the signature of a witness was waived; many of the ballots being mailed in [for November’s election in Virginia] are missing the now-required signature of a witness.  In response to this problem, a large ballot curing effort has begun.

          You can join a “cure” phone bank any day from October 15th through 31st. Details here: Cure Phone Bank · Virginia Voter Protection. This is an important effort. Join if you can!

          In the past, I have recommended Field Team 6 as an organization on the front lines of registering voters. Readers who have joined Seal Team 6 have reported back with rave reviews about the organization. The motto for Field Team 6 is “Register Democrats, Save the World!” Field Team 6 focuses on registering unregistered voters by engaging in the radical strategy of “talking to strangers.” Here is a snippet from the Field Team 6 website:

          The solution is as simple as it is powerful: talking to strangers. It’s the proven #1 way to win elections. Did you know that 60% of unregistered voters have never been asked to register?

          We meet people where they are – via phone, text, postcard, social media, and soon at in-person, Covid-safe voter drives!

          Armed with, the only custom-built app just for registering Democrats, we track down every good-hearted eligible voter we can, and get them on the voter rolls where they belong. And sign them up to vote from home!

          Now is the time to step outside our comfort zones. If we are going to win in 2022 and 2024, we must reach out to the 80 million unregistered eligible voters and to the “low propensity” registered voters who rarely vote. Talking to strangers may be uncomfortable at first, but the alternative (GOP control of Congress) will be far worse. Don’t sit home and worry! Channel that anxiety into action!

The Supreme Court.

          We must reform the Supreme Court. Now. The Court’s reactionary activism is inflicting real damage on civil liberties. On Thursday evening, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the Texas anti-abortion law to remain in effect by dissolving an injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman. To be clear, the Texas legislature drafted the law so that it would violate the rights recognized by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade. The Supreme Court previously refused to enjoin a statute that flouts the authority of the Court and the supremacy of the Constitution, saying that the matter could be managed by lower courts. Judge Pitman enjoined the law in a blistering opinion, but a panel of the Fifth Circuit voted 2-1 to allow the law to remain in effect.

          The Fifth Circuit’s ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court. But by that time, Roe v. Wade will have been overruled. But that is no excuse for the Fifth Circuit’s shameful disregard of binding authority. By allowing Texas to violate rights guaranteed by the Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court, the Fifth Circuit is undermining the rule of law. This travesty was invited by the Supreme Court’s reactionary opinions designed to engineer a legal framework based on the social and religious agenda of a small minority of far-right Republicans.

          The U.S. Supreme Court is broken. No, it is worse than broken. It has been captured by dark money donors on the far right who are now reaping the benefits of their investments. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse wrote a “must read” article in Salon, “Justice Alito complains, but the evidence is clear: This Supreme Court was built by dark money.” The article is a rebuttal to the self-pitying remarks by Justice Alito at Notre Dame University, where he bemoaned the fact that the Court is viewed as partisan.

          Senator Whitehouse dismantles Alito’s arguments (as well as recent remarks by other Justices) by demonstrating that the Court’s current reactionary majority was paid for by dark money investors. I urge you to read the article; you will be convinced the Court has lost all legitimacy in ruling on social, religious, and monied-interest issues. Here is an excerpt to whet your appetite:

          To reach the desired results, Republican justices often abandon the principles and doctrines of legal conservatism, like textualism and originalism. Take last term's Americans for Prosperity Foundation decision, which created sweeping First Amendment protections for the funders behind dark-money political groups, like the Koch-backed plaintiff in the case. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor pointed out in her dissent, the "decision discards decades of First Amendment jurisprudence" to produce a novel, activist creation in the law: constitutional protection for dark money. Good luck finding support for massive dark-money, special-interest spending in the debates at the Constitutional Convention.

          Sadly, the Commission appointed by President Biden to study Supreme Court reform is signaling that it will follow the “institutionalist” instincts of those on the Commission—many of whom are products of the Court themselves (through the clerkship system). The first interim report is here: “Membership and Size of the Court.” The Commission rejects the notion of expanding the Court because that move might be viewed as “political” in nature. Of course it is a political move—because it is designed to counter the political capture of the Court by the reactionary minority in the U.S.

Instead of expanding the Court, the Commission suggests “rotating Justices.” While that is a fine idea that makes a tremendous amount of sense, it will never happen. Limiting the terms of Justices will require a constitutional amendment—and approval by 38 state legislatures. Expanding the Court, on the other hand, will require only a majority vote in the House and the Senate.

          As readers know, I believe Joe Biden is doing a good job during difficult times. On this issue, I believe he is failing the American people and the Constitution. The Court just allowed a law to remain in effect that was drafted for the purpose of flouting the Constitution. There is worse to come—much. This is a national emergency. Pretending that a Commission will fix the problems on the Court is temporizing, at best. The time to act is now; failing that, we must act as soon as possible. Which means expanding the Senate in 2022 and 2024 to escape the stranglehold of Sinema and Manchin.

 To achieve voting reform, we must abolish the filibuster.

          Mitch McConnell just announced that Senate Republicans will not support the stripped-down voter protection bill drafted by Senator Manchin. See Talking Points Memo, “McConnell Declares Revival Of Stalled Voting Rights Push ‘Is Going Nowhere’.” (“Democrats call this latest repackaging a ‘compromise,’ but it’s only a compromise among themselves.”) Representative Jim Clyburn has demanded that the Senate carve out voting rights from the filibuster if Republicans invoke the rule to prevent passage of the “lite” version of voting rights reform.

          It would be wise for Joe Biden to support Rep. Clyburn’s demand to modify the filibuster. Jim Clyburn is the person most responsible for resurrecting Joe Biden’s failing candidacy in 2020. Clyburn put his faith in Joe Biden. It is time for Joe Biden to his faith in Jim Clyburn.

Senator Sinema.

          Senator Sinema has effectively ceased functioning as a member of the Senate. She is refusing to tell her Senate colleagues what her demands are for the reconciliation bill. She has now told them she will not vote for the reconciliation bill until after the infrastructure bill has been passed. She has continued her erratic behavior by heading to Europe during the Senate recess to fundraise—rather than heading home to her constituents. See NYTimes, “As Budget Bill Hangs in Limbo, Kyrsten Sinema Heads to Europe.”

          Democrats in Arizona are taking notice. In a poll taken by a progressive group in Arizona, Senator Sinema is shown losing by double-digit margins against four progressive candidates in head-to-head match ups. She also loses in a four-person Democratic primary. See HuffPo, “Progressive Group’s Poll Suggests Deep Primary Trouble For Kyrsten Sinema.”

Concluding Thoughts.

          I have been encouraged by reader response to this week’s newsletter, “A bias toward action.” In response to that newsletter, I heard from hundreds of readers engaged in political activism—many for the first time in their lives. Most readers are engaged in some form of “get out the vote” effort. One reader reported that the Republican vote in his community is divided into three groups—only one of which supports Trump. The other Republican groups support moderate GOP candidates or Democrats.

          It is true that Democrats face daunting challenges and an uneven playing field. Understanding those facts is necessary to calibrate the level of our response. But we cannot let those facts paralyze us with fear. From where I sit, I see thousands of engaged, positive, and appropriately alarmed readers who are acting as never before to defend democracy. That vantage gives me confidence and optimism about the future. I hope that it gives you the same confidence and optimism.

          As always, we have every reason to be hopeful, but no reason to be complacent. We are facing a once-in-century challenge to democracy. It is up to us to rise to its defense, as we have done for the last five years. We must not relent; indeed, we must redouble our efforts. We can do that!

          Talk to you on Monday!